August 2001by Liz Drayton
For years, I'd longed to go to Nevis. Although I could never quite explain why, it probably had something to do with the fact that no one had ever heard of the place, and fewer still could pronounce it correctly ("knee-vis"). Of course, the lure of romping with the mischievous Vervet monkeys or picking soursop from the trees didn't hurt, either, and who could refuse the elixir of a swim in the warm Caribbean. But if you really want to know the truth, I was desperate to drag my family away from MTV and Nintendo and off to a place where kids could simply be kids. I had no idea what to expect.
Zooming into the tiny airstrip on a Twin-Engine Otter, I was reminded of a remote World War II outpost: a hodgepodge of half-built buildings at the edge of the tarmac, and lots of jeeps. But instead of G.I.s milling about, we were greeted by the melodic laughs and easygoing smiles of Nevisians. And, right on cue, our local host from Seashell Properties, Cynthia, handed us a cold bottle of Ting and the keys to our jeep.
The Draytons had arrived.
Past Newcastle village, around a corner and down a short, grassy track with a propped-up sign entitled "Blue Crescent", we navigated the trip to our villa in less than five minutes. Our home-away-from-home for the next 10 days was "Villa Nevis Palm", a siren call if there ever was one for our bedraggled bodies. The kids bolted for the pool and my husband, Emlen, mixed us the prerequisite Rum and O.J. Nothing to do but relax from here on in!
"Villa Nevis Palm" suited us to a T – three large bedrooms, comfortable living room, modest kitchen (as if I'd be doing any cooking), and a screened-in porch overlooking both the pool and the carpet of green lawn stretching down to the beach. Being right next door to Nisbet Plantation was an unexpected bonus for us, too: son Fritz and crew soon befriended some kids from Santa Barbara who were spending a family reunion at the hotel, while Em and I wandered over to check out “Grill Night” at the Nisbet - a colorful feast of local fish, langouste, steak, shrimp and shark, all a-sizzle with the smoky fragrance of the grill.
The kids tracked down some landcrabs and lined them up for a "Grill Night" tradition – the crab races – and daughter Maggie and Emlen wowed the tough crowd by dipping and twirling barefoot in the sand to win the dance contest. Guests at "Nevis Palm" can also register their credit card number at Nisbet Plantation to facilitate charging meals, drinks and other activities (snorkeling trips etc.) that can be arranged through the concierge. This made life easy.
Actually, everything on Nevis was easy. In a place with no traffic lights, stop signs or seat belt laws, you didn't really have to worry about anything except avoiding the goats that darted alongside the roads. The kids soon devised their own version of "pin the tail on the donkey" with “smack the tail of the goat” as they hung out the back of the jeep trying to make contact with the animals. Ah, children.
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